Erdogan’s Grand Palace: Costly Folly Or Symbol Of New Turkey?
For Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan his new palace on the outskirts of Ankara — costing no less than $615 million (500 million euros) — is a “work of art” and an essential symbol of a “new Turkey”, with its growing economy and diplomatic might.
Known officially as the Presidential Palace but dubbed universally as the Aksaray (White Palace), the complex takes up an area of 200,000 square metres (2.1 million square feet), has 1,000 rooms and draws its architectural inspiration from Turkey’s Ottoman and Seljuk heritage.
Still not entirely finished, the palace has already started hosting official events and talks. Pope Francis is set to the first house guest during a visit to Turkey at the end of the month.
Controversy over the palace soared when Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek told a parliamentary budget committee this week that the total cost so far was 1.37 billion Turkish lira ($615 million), around double the original price tag.
Even one of Erdogan’s oldest allies, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, admitted to a parliamentary committee this week that “this was not a small sum of money.”
Erdogan on Thursday lashed out at his critics, describing the palace as a “work of art” and emphasising that it was being registered as state, not personal, property.
He said the complex — which will eventually include a public mosque and conference centre — was essential to present modern Turkey to the world.
“If we want to get ahead of our rivals in the modern world, we need to do something,” he said.
“These buildings are by definition the shop window of a country. Everyone judges you according to your appearance.”
Adding fuel to the fire, Erdogan has also acquired a brand new presidential jet, an Airbus-330-200, bought at a cost of $185 million and already put to use, decked out in the red and white of the Turkish flag.
“Time is money,” Erdogan said of the plane, saying it would allow him to fly faster to international events.
“We need such a plane to show the greatness of Turkey.”